So after the drama of the playoffs, it comes down to the final showdown of the Russian League of American Football between the most historically successful team in Russia in the Moscow Patriots and the young and hungry Moscow Spartans.
What can we expect from the matchup?
The Patriots seem to be the favorites on paper. Having easily cruised through the regular season without a single loss (which included a win against the Spartans with a fascinating forth quarter comeback) and took the first place in the Premier division, which allowed them to get a bye for the first two week of the playoffs, and had them face a low-seed Nizhny Novgorod Raiders 52 in the semi-finals, who did manage to put up a real fight.
However, the Patriots are not without their weak points too. A lot of their players are still injured and not in their top shape after being involved with the national team campaign in European Championship Group B qualifiers. In addition, their main offensive weapon during the regular season – Talib Wise – has left for China and will not help the club during the crucial game, so it remains to be seen whether this becomes too big a hole to fill for them.
As for the Spartans, the young franchise has been among the fastest-growing teams in Russia. Having finished the regular season with three losses, they had a relatively low seed and a long way ahead of them to play in this game – in the three previous rounds of the playoffs, they have only played away and covered more than 5000 km in total, but still managed to win all of the games, including downing the defending champion Griffins in St. Petersburg. One of the big improvements during the playoffs for them has been the return of their young sensation at QB Ivan Goloveshkin (who has missed almost all of the regular season with injury), which added an offensive spark to one of the top defensive units in the league.
However, as stout as their front seven has been, their defensive backfield has been far less reliable, conceding big plays throughout the season. In addition, it will remain to be seen whether the road weariness will finally get down to the team, as well as how they will handle the pressure playing on such a big stage for the first time.
All of these questions will be answered on Saturday in the LAF Finals.
Kickoff: Saturday, October 8 3:30 PM CET (9:30 AM EDT)